The Amarillo Philharmonic Club and Women Composers of the Texas Panhandle

Kimberly Hieb, West Texas A&M University

Editor’s Note: We are highlighting scholarship that will be featured at our triennial conference May 14-19, 2024.

Amarillo, Texas is located in the heart of the Texas Panhandle, roughly 300 miles from any major metropolitan center. Oklahoma City lies to the east, Albuquerque to the west, Denver to the North, and Dallas-Fort Worth to the southeast. Citizens of this town, which was established first by ranchers and cattlemen in the 1880s and then by oil money in the 1920s and remains located so far from any other metropolitan center, have fostered an individual and rich musical culture since the early twentieth century. 

The Amarillo Philharmonic Club was founded in 1905 and one of the fourteen original Federated Music Clubs in the United States. This club, like many others documented by Linda Whitesett (1997), Karen Blair (1994), and Marion Wilson Kimber (2019), educated its membership about the mechanics of music and introduced them to composers and repertoire from both across the country and the globe. Programs and newspaper articles recounting the activities of the Amarillo Philharmonic Club in the 1930s, though, reveal the club to be a particularly strong advocate for homegrown talent. Concerts and programs frequently featured works by local, female composers, often setting texts by local women poets. This paper documents this advocacy work, which helped launch the career of at least one Panhandle native, Radie Britain, whose compositions often reflected her West Texas heritage and were later played all over the United States throughout her career.

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